Did you know we are having a presidential caucus in March? What is a presidential caucus? For some odd reason, I got these questions multiple times from multiple people Thursday.
So, for those that don’t know, there is a presidential caucus next month and there are a few very notable differences between a caucus and a primary election for president, which I will try to explain below.
• Why are we having a Republican Presidential Caucus on March 5 but a Democratic Primary Election on May 17? – In a nutshell, the answer to this question is U.S. Senator Rand Paul, one of Kentucky’s two senators.
Paul is one of several people seeking the Republican nomination for President of the United States. (No he has no realistic shot of winning, but that is another column for another day.) Paul is hedging his bets and is also running for re-election to the U.S. Senate too. However, state law bars a candidate’s name from appearing twice on the same ballot. In other words, Paul’s name couldn’t appear on the May Primary election ballot as a presidential nominee and as a candidate for U.S. Senate.
So at Paul’s urging, along with some strong lobbying from U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell the Republican Party of Kentucky decided to decide our state’s presidential delegates via a caucus instead of a primary election.
Democrats will still decide who will receive Kentucky’s Democratic presidential delegates during the traditional May 17 Primary and won’t be experiencing any changes.
• Caucus voters must be registered Republicans – Only people, who registered to vote as Republicans by Dec. 31, 2015, are eligible to vote in the Republican caucus. In other words, someone couldn’t go vote in the Republican Caucus and the Democratic Primary Election in the same year.
• Where you vote – During a primary election, there are 36 voting precincts where you would go to cast your ballot depending on where you live. For the March 5 caucus, there is only one polling location in Whitley County, which is Whitley County High School.
• When you vote – Polls during a primary election are open from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. The lone polling location during the caucus will only be open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
• Who is in charge – In a primary election, the Kentucky Board of Elections and local boards of election oversee the voting process. In a caucus or in this case Kentucky’s Republican caucus, the Republican Party of Kentucky will oversee the voting process, and will foot the bill for the cost of the caucus. The county and state are still responsible for the footing the bill during the May 17 Primary Election.
• Electioneering at the polls – During a primary election, there are pretty stringent guidelines on campaigning within so many feet of the polls. This doesn’t hold true for a caucus. For instance, if Donald Trump wanted to go down to Whitley County High School, and campaign all day on March 5 while the caucus was taking place, then he could do so. Hillary Clinton couldn’t do the same at any of the 36 precinct locations in Whitley County during the May 17 Primary Election.
• How delegates will be divided – Kentucky’s Republican delegates will be allocated proportionately among the delegates. Each candidate, who receives at least 5 percent of the total votes cast at the caucus, shall be awarded a pro-rata portion of the authorized delegate vote for the Kentucky Republican Party at the Republican National Convention.
• Absentee voting – Yes there will be absentee voting in the caucus but it will work a little differently than it normally does. If you are at least 70 years old on the day of the caucus; a student, who doesn’t reside in the county where they are registered to vote; you are going to be absent from the county on the day of the caucus; or can’t go vote due to a medical issue or disability, then you can request an absentee ballot, but the request must go to Frankfort and not the local county clerk’s office.
The request must be made to the Republican Party of Kentucky by no later than Feb. 19.
A voter may submit the absentee ballot application form to the Republican Party of Kentucky through the following avenues:
• Postal Mail: Republican Party of Kentucky, P.O. Box 1068, Frankfort, KY 40602; Fax: (502) 223-5625.
• In Person: Republican Party of Kentucky, 105 W 3rd Street, Frankfort, KY 40601.
• By Email: To: firstname.lastname@example.org, Subject: Absentee Voting (No other email address is authorized to accept applications)
Completed absentee ballots must be received at the state party headquarters by 5 p.m. on March 4.
For more information about the caucus or absentee voting in the caucus call (502) 875-5130 or log onto www.rpk.org/caucus.
• Still having a Republican Primary Election – Even though Kentucky is having a Republican presidential caucus, there will still be a May 17 Republican Primary Election for 82nd District State Representative when incumbent Regina Bunch will take on challenger Alex Patrick.